Managing Innovation

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Almost all innovations encounter the problem of people having a natural resistance to change. Even the very best new products that offer many benefits to consumers can fail simply because people are satisfied with what they already have and are reluctant to change their behaviour.

The greatest obstacle to gaining acceptance for an innovation occurs when people are required to change their behaviour. People get accustomed to using a particular product and understand the extent of its capabilities. When an innovative product comes along, they can be reluctant to adopt it if it means they will have to learn something new or do something differently. Sometimes, the benefit provided by the new product is outweighed by the effort needed to learn to use it.

Customers get used to buying a particular brand or product and through experience, know that they can rely on it to meet their needs. There is risk associated with anything new or untried, so people make the choice to stick with what they are already familiar with.

Many problems arise because sellers overestimate the benefits of new products whilst buyers overestimate the benefits of existing products. This compounds the issue and means that sellers need to work hard on communicating and demonstrating the benefits of new products to consumers. This can be difficult when the benefits gained are minimal and people Resistance to Changedon't see the rewards as enough reason to change their current buying behaviour.

You need to be aware that some people ignore the potential benefits that come with innovations[1]. They assess a product on what they think it is worth, not on what you or your research thinks it is worth. People will compare something new to what they already have and quickly determine what gains they will receive as well as what they would lose by changing. Generally, they are more concerned about what they will lose over what they stand to gain.

Ideally, your innovations should reduce the amount that the consumer needs to change whilst providing as many benefits as possible. You should be careful when implementing an innovation that requires your customers to learn a new way of doing a task they can already complete using currently available options. If your product does require behavioural changes, it is crucial that you are able to clearly demonstrate the benefits of the innovation to your customers.

Gaining acceptance for an innovative product or service can take time. If your product is genuinely better than anything else on offer, there is a chance that it will be accepted in the long term. However, you must be prepared to make a significant commitment of time and money to make an innovation commercially successful.


[1] Innovation Generation: Creating an Innovation Process and an Innovative Culture, P Merrill, 2008.